November 14, 2016

Babcock Ranch offers town and country living

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

Submitted by Caffrey & Associates 5:05 a.m. EDT November 5, 2016

babcock ranch park

Every residence at Babcock Ranch will be within a five-minute walk of a park.(Photo: Submitted)

BABCOCK RANCH — Kitson & Partners’ commitment to land preservation has been well-documented since it purchased the 91,000-acre Babcock Ranch property in July 2006 and simultaneously sold 73,000 acres to the state of Florida in what remains the single largest land preservation purchase in the history of the state.

Now, as construction of model homes and the first phase of the Downtown District at the Palm Beach Gardens-based developer’s new town of Babcock Ranch continues to progress on schedule for completion in early first quarter of next year, the impact of Kitson’s vision of a place that embraces residential neighborhoods, civic, retail, and educational structures, and opportunities to enjoy nature on a daily basis as a cohesive, unified experience rather than as separate, disparate parts is becoming a reality. Taken in combination with Babcock’s commitment to clean energy sourced in solar power by day and natural gas by night, the resulting town and country lifestyle afforded by Kitson’s development approach has been heralded as a model for how towns of the future will be developed.

Babcock Ranch will include 19,500 homes, nearly 50,000 residents, and 6 million square feet of commercial space. While that by-the-numbers assessment provides a glimpse of the magnitude of Kitson’s undertaking, the new town’s 18,000-acre site plan and innovative merging of urban and rural constructs present an even more compelling story.

Kitson has chosen to build the new town on lands previously disturbed by the Babcock family’s timber, mining, and agricultural operations, a decision that will result in a minimal 400-acre footprint. Half of the 18,000-acre site will be preserved in the form of lakes, parks, green spaces, community gardens, forests, and a 50-mile network of nature trails, all of which will be intertwined with the town’s residential neighborhoods and downtown venues.

Kitson’s team of town makers created neighborhoods, that by design, offer an immediate connection with nature. Every residence at Babcock Ranch will be within a five-minute walk of a park, a feature that not only affords residents an opportunity to create memories with their children and grandchildren, but also provides a venue for neighbors to socialize. Each neighborhood will also include a town garden, a dog park, lakeside fishing dock, observation deck, and a trail head that serves as a gateway to the town’s trail network. Lakefront green spaces and pathways will provide an immediate sense of connection with the lakes that are, perhaps, the town’s most endearing feature.

The connection with nature extends beyond the neighborhoods at Babcock Ranch and encompasses the Downtown District that is a short walk or bike ride from the Craftsman, Farmhouse, Coastal Gulf Vernacular, Spanish, and Colonial/West Indies architectural style homes that are sourced in the pre-World War II Southwest Florida styles. Downtown’s Table and Tap Restaurant, an outfitters store that will provide hiking gear and apparel, a market that will offer a coffee shop, grab and go items, and an ice cream shop, a wellness center, and Woodlea Hall, Babcock Ranch’s first civic building and home to the town’s information center, will all be situated around Founder’s Square, a lakefront green space that will include a waterfront promenade and serve as a gathering place and the focal point for town events and celebrations.

“Creating a downtown Founder’s Square that encourages personal interaction is extremely important in creating a town that has a true sense of place,” said Bill Waddill, Senior Vice President, Kimley-Horn & Associates. “As we’ve thought about all of the uses that should be incorporated into Founder’s Square, a lot of it has been about the water, having access to the water, creating a promenade, a boardwalk along the water so you can get a sense of it as you’re strolling along it. Again, being respectful of the land, recognizing the large lakes that exist, but all the while incorporating all of the key design components that create places where people can interact, where families can go and throw a Frisbee, or play with their children on a playground by the water, or a couple can stroll along the promenade, along the large lake, or they can go to the outfitters store and rent a canoe or kayak and go out on the lake system.”

“To me the thing about Babcock is really being in nature and having a place that can be both urban and preserve at the same time and bringing nature into the built part of it as well as being adjacent to it,” said Gary Nelson, Senior Vice President of Planning and Development, Kitson & Partners. “I think the bike trails and the nature paths we’re going to have all through the project is just something that really drives me as a reason to be here — a place where you can spend the day on the trail, you can spend the day downtown, or you can spend the day on the lake. Anyway you look at it, there is something to do, a place where you can walk to it and enjoy it.”